I was asked to put this together by a fellow reader months ago, yet life managed to find a way to force me into watching endless TV series on Netflix instead. Sometimes life is a cruel mistress with no mercy. But here it is! Better late than never, yet still not later than the end of the year. My collection of stand out properties from 2017. I have stayed in 44 different luxury hotels this year, some as my 3rd, 4th or even 150th stay, and for better or worse, here are those that have stood out so far.
Let’s start with the easy ones. This year I set out to stay in every single FHR hotel within London – all 22 of them. With just 4 to go, here are what I would rank as the best of the year.
Favourite London hotels
- The Connaught
- The Beaumont
- The Lanesborough – proof that service recovery works.
- The Bulgari
Each has their own cons. The Connaught with their terrible tech and small entry rooms; The Beaumont with their dark rooms, masculine design and lack of pool; The Lanesborough suffering from poor cuisine; The Bulgari, competing with British Airways for their never-ending cost cutting. Yet each offers something utterly brilliant as well. For the fact that they recovered so well, and offer such an incredible spa, facilities, amenities, location and those freaking awesome Roja toiletries, I feel The Lanesborough has just won it.
Favourite non-London city hotel
Ellerman House. World class service, hospitality, food and views.
Best beach resort
Iniala – once again one of my favourite properties in the world, but somehow it got even better.
Singita Lebombo – almost every part of the safari experience was magical. Do ensure you get a private tour guide, as otherwise you may end up with people like me next to you.
The Pig at Combe. I did not even expect to enjoy this property, let alone love it. 6 months on, my partner still talks of her massage there and ranks it amongst the best she’s ever had.
Miavana. Unlike another guest, we didn’t threaten to sue them upon departure, so that made us only their second worst guest of that day. My review that currently sits top of Google, so I doubt they will be sending me a Christmas card, although HQ’s complete lack of response makes me wonder if they even bothered to read it.
Special mention to Villa Honegg for becoming Lord of the Flies, but in a horribly literal sense.
The Restaurant at The Dolder Grand. Somehow it only has 2 Michelin stars, instead of the 427 that it deserves.
Biggest culinary disappointment
The Michelin star restaurant at Four Seasons Florence would win this in any normal year for their feeble attempts at food, but excellent attempts at overcharging. Instead Jean-George at The Connaught has won their crown. Not because of the restaurant, but the stupidity of now having no eating options other than afternoon tea between 2:30 and 6:30 in a luxury hotel.
Biggest service recovery
Amanzoe. I am still to write about it, but my 5th visit to Amanzoe was by far the worst. I do not feel it appropriate to mention what they did to recover, but seeing that I complained and asked for nothing, they went above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. I will be back in May ’18.
Switzerland. Beau-Rivage, Dolder Grand, Alpina Gstaad, Park Hotel Vitznau are just a small percentage of the gems available in this country of masterpieces. I still have 5 other hotels I’m desperate to visit next year.
I would say Madagascar. Of course I would. That entire countries tourism industry is reliant on a company that is living on achievements 20 years ago. Yet I’ve decided to stick closer to home and will instead say England; don’t waste your time with our countryside properties when Switzerland is but 2 hours away. Cliveden House, Lympstone Manor, Whatley Manor are all vying for your hard-earned money. You will wonder why you bothered working.
Worst service recovery
Lympstone Manor – thou shalt not give any shits about you, me or anyone not called Michael.
Biggest disappointing stay at a newly opened hotel
All of them. Never, ever, go to an opening of a luxury hotel.
Best overall hotel
Iniala, Park Hotel Vitznau and Ellerman House. All 3 stood out this year; all 3 are part of the clear pattern emerging, that non-chain based hotels can offer the best experiences; all 3 have owners that care not about money, but sheer pride in delivering something truly world class. Yet there can be only one winner. Park Hotel Vitznau, step forward.
There were more hits than a Chris Brown reunion in 2016. It twas the year of the big holidays: North Island, Laucala, Fregate, Amanpulo. In 2017, Singita Lebombo, Sweni, Miavana, Ani Villas and Iniala were the big hitters, but between them, I traveled more by spending more time in Europe.
Whilst spending a lot can inevitably lead to disappointment, as can trying out lots of new places. 2017 revealed the mediocrity of what can exist, and of what can be perceived as luxury yet fail to achieve the basics. There were just too many hotels that were either uninspired, or simple disappointments along the way. Too many that were certainly 5 star, but some way from a luxury experience. Too many that live off past glories, or the promise of a bright future.
Yet there is hope. Amongst my collections of gems are Sant Francesc in Mallorca; Palazzo Parigi in Milan; The Balmoral in Edinburgh and an even more impressive, second stay in The Peninsula in Paris.
The more you do something, the harder it is to impress, but ultimately excellent service can overcome most issues – unless you’re charging $5000/n for it. If a hotel in South Africa with 13 rooms can deliver world class service, perhaps it’s time to stop excusing other properties.
Any hotels you would mention amongst your favourites?
keep going! love to see all your reviews.
I would love to see a review of the Singita properties if you have time. Of the city hotels you visited this year, I’d also be interested in reading your thoughts on MO Bangkok and FS Florence as these are among the highest rated in their respective chains.
Have you departed for Morocco yet?
I am actually working on Singita, Kyle. Writers block is no longer metaphorical – it has turned into a weapon and is beating my face to a pulp. But just know that my Singita review is there. Starring at me. Plotting against me.
FS Florence would make for an interesting review, as we ended up with a comp stay due to their mishaps; MO Bangkok I can summarise with feeling it was immensely overrated and where mere mortals go, whilst the gods at The Siam laugh about them.
Departing to Morocco this week.
Thanks, Tom! I would also love to see a comparison between Royal Mansour and Amanjena when you get back.
Just love your reviews here and at flyertalk website!!
Always great to read your reviews and I hope to see this as an annual series! It’s a great idea and a good read (and led me to more reviews I hadn’t yet read!).
It’s been a disappointing year for me travel wise somewhat in terms of luxury, exception being Amanjiwo which I just got back from!
Hi! Love your reviews. Have been to a lot of these hotels and very much agree (LOVE Ellerman, HATE Amangiri).
Question – we are actually booking Switzerland as we speak and were debating Vitznau vs. Honegg and will definitely do Vitznau. What are the 5 other hotels you’re looking at?
You really cannot go wrong with Park Hotel Vitznau, so you have made an excellent choice. I do not know anyone who has been there that didn’t love it. We loved it so much we’re getting married there next year.
For Switzerland, I cannot remember the other 5, as me being me, we’ve changed everything this year. Next month we’re in Bau au Lac, Park Hotel Vitznau (wedding planning) and Chedi Andermatt. Reality is you could pick up a copy of Swiss Deluxe Hotels guide, throw it at the wall and will most likely end up with a winner.